Friday, March 24, 2017

Rising Up Again

A verse in Proverbs reads, “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again” (Proverbs 26:16).  This reminds me of what the Lord said about Oliver Granger in the Doctrine and Covenants: “Let him contend earnestly for the redemption of the First Presidency of my Church, saith the Lord; and when he falls he shall rise again, for his sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than his increase, saith the Lord” (D&C 117:13).  One of the principles of the gospel is that no matter how many times we struggle and feel that we fail, we only truly fail if we don’t keep trying to live the life that our Savior wants us to live.  There is no limit to how much we can sincerely repent and have the Lord forgive us.  Alma was told by the Lord, “Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me” (Mosiah 26:30).  Moroni recorded something similar about the Church in his time, “But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven” (Moroni 6:8).  The hope of the gospel is that the Lord will never give up on us as long as we keep trying.   Perfection may be the ultimate goal, but there is no due date for that requirement. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Spriritual Stability

Elder Renlund recounted a story from Sweden’s history about a king named Gustav II Adolf who in the 1600s had a warship built for their kingdom.  Elder Renlund recounted, “After construction had begun, Gustav Adolf ordered the Vasa to be made longer. Because the width supports had already been built from precious oak, the king directed the builders to increase the ship’s length without increasing its width. Although the shipwrights knew that doing so would compromise the Vasa’s seaworthiness, they were hesitant to tell the king something they knew he did not want to hear. They complied.”  He told of other modifications that the king made which should have been made, and then Elder Renlund told how on its maiden voyage the ship sunk.  He explained, “Despite the Vasa’s magnificent appearance, the ship was not seaworthy. The alterations in its construction resulted in it not having sufficient lateral stability to enable safe seafaring. Gustav Adolf’s desire for an extravagant status symbol ruined the design of what would have been a magnificent sailing vessel, the mightiest warship of its time.”  He used this story to talk about the spiritual stability that we need in our lives to be able to successfully navigate the challenges that we face.  It’s not our outward appearance or even how the world sees us that matters; it’s what’s on the inside and how we have constructed our own spiritual foundation that will make the difference. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Mount of Transfiguration

As I wrote about Elijah yesterday I realized that it is not totally clear in the scriptures who was at the Mount of Transfiguration.  We know of course that the Savior was there with His three apostles, and they heard the voice of God the Father saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matt. 17:5).  In the account in Matthew we also read that when Peter, James, and John were on the mount, “Moses and Elias” appeared unto them and spoke to them.  Everything I can find suggests that Elias here refers specifically to Elijah, even though the name Elias is used elsewhere as a more general term and refers to more than one person.  It’s interesting to me that when President Joseph F. Smith listed the “great and mighty ones” who were part of the Lord’s missionary force on the other side of the veil, he included, “Elias, who was with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration.”  The way his next sentence starts talking about Elijah to me suggest that Joseph F. Smith was using the word Elias for Elijah simply to be consistent with the New Testament text (and using the two names interchangeably): “And Malachi, the prophet who testified of the coming of Elijah” (D&C 138:45-47).

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Chariot of Fire

A few nights ago as I was sitting in my sons’ room as they were trying to go to sleep, my five year old asked me out of the blue something to the effect of, “Dad, when we die, do we really go to heaven in a wagon with horses?”  He had recently watched an animated Bible video of Elijah and had seen a depiction of Elijah going to heaven in a chariot of fire.  The scripture records the event this way: “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.  And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof” (2 Kings 2:11-12).  I talked with my boys about the event and how I wasn’t sure that we would go to heaven the same way.  My son suggested that perhaps great-grandma would go to heaven that way when she dies, and who knows, maybe he is right? 

Monday, March 20, 2017

He Knows Your Name

I listened to a BYU devotional talk by Cecilia Peek from several years ago and I was really impressed by the story she told from her mission to Germany.  It’s a story that testifies of our premortal existence and of how our Heavenly Father knows each of us personally.  I think that one of the great messages of the Restoration is indeed that God knows us individually.  The first word spoken by God in the Sacred Grove was “Joseph”—a witness that He knew Joseph by name.  Many of the revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants also testify of God’s knowledge of us. One example is in the Lord’s revelation to Oliver Cowdery when He declared, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things” (D&C 6:22).  This was a reminder from God to Oliver about the personal spiritual witness he had had and which Joseph knew nothing about.  On another occasion, William McLellin sought answers to five questions from the Lord that Joseph did not know, and D&C 66 was given in response.  We don’t know the questions, but Brother McLellin said they were answered to his “full and entire satisfaction” which he didn’t deny even after he fell away.  The Lord knew him personally and showed this as He answered his specific questions.  Many other revelations testify of God’s knowledge of each of His children as we see Him address many specific individuals by name and give them custom counsel for their lives and situation. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Labor For Zion

One of the ways that the atonement was such a great triumph for the Savior was that He suffered willingly even though He had the power to stop it.  When Peter cut of the ear of the high priest’s servant the Savior said to Him, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?...  Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? (John 18:11, Matthew 26:53)  He had said earlier, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17-18).  Christ, having the power even to raise the dead, clearly had the power to stop what was happening to Him.  At any point in the suffering He could have called it off and shown forth His power.  At one point at the peak of His suffering people jeered, “He saved others; himself he cannot save.  If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him” (Mathew 27:42).  He could have done just that, but knowing His mission and the cup that His Father needed Him to drink, He did not.  Surely the great victory of His atonement was not just that He suffered immensely but that He did it with the full power to stop it. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Mary's Suffering

As I watched the incredible performance of Rob Gardner’s Lamb of God today I was struck by the great suffering that Mary the mother of Jesus must have gone through.  We really don’t have a lot of details about her life, but what we know I believe we see that she must have had great trials to pass through as the mother of the Savior.  When Jesus was first born Mary and Joseph took Him to the temple and there they met Simeon who prophesied about their future.  One of the things that he told Mary was that “a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also” (Luke 2:35).  This seems to be an allusion to how a sword would pierce Jesus’s side at the time of His death, and that event and many others symbolically caused Mary’s own heart to be pierced.  Surely no follower of Christ at Jerusalem suffered more at His death than Mary did witnessing her own son treated so brutally. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Enabling Power of the Atonement

Today I listened to Elder Bednar’s classic address In the Strength of the Lord which he gave at BYU in 2001.  In this talk he encouraged us to consider two aspects of the atonement: the redeeming and the enabling powers of the atonement.  He taught that the atonement both helps to overcome sin and also to be given strength to overcome challenges and become better.  Of the latter he said, “The enabling power of the Atonement strengthens us to do and be good and serve beyond our own individual desire and natural capacity.”  In other words, the atonement of the Savior can help give us power to do more than we would otherwise be able to do and face our challenges with His strength and help.  Elder Bednar suggested that “the Book of Mormon is replete with examples of disciples and prophets who knew and understood and were transformed by the enabling power of the Atonement.”  One of those examples was Nephi who was given power to break the bands his brothers put upon him, to find food when it seemed impossible, to build a ship against all odds, and to cross the ocean despite the great difficulty.  He was the epitome of one who did everything he could himself and then trusted in the Lord.    

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Daniel and the Last Days

As far as we know Daniel spent all of his life in exile after being carried away from Jerusalem.  He lived around 600 years before Christ and was for the most part surrounded by those who did not believe in Jehovah. He must have longed for the day when he could go back to Jerusalem to build up the Lord’s city.  He wrote, “I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God… I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain… Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake” (Daniel 9:3, 16-17).  He yearned for the time when the holy city could be built up again, but as far as we know he didn’t see that.  What’s interesting to me is that the visions that he received of the Lord did not really deal much with the immediate return of the Jews to Jerusalem.  But he did receive many revelations regarding the last days and the end times. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Servants and Handmaids

Speaking of the House of Israel in the last days Isaiah said, “And the people shall take them and bring them to their place; yea, from far unto the ends of the earth; and they shall return to their lands of promise. And the house of Israel shall possess them, and the land of the Lord shall be for servants and handmaids” (2 Nephi 24:2).  I believe that what Isaiah is saying is that Israel will have been oppressed and the people who were of the lower class in society and trampled upon—i.e. servants and handmaids—will ultimately triumph and be blessed by the Lord.  But I’d like to think that we can take it literally in the sense that those who are the people of the Lord are indeed servants.  In other words, if we want to be God’s people, then we have to serve others.  Elder Marion G. Romney seemed to be saying this when he taught, “Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made.”  Jesus put it another way: “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).  The Celestial Kingdom will not be made up of people who are waited upon by servants; rather it will be made up of those who have learned to truly serve others.